Madagascar: The Eighth Continent: Life, Death and Discovery in a Lost World (Bradt Travel Guides (Travel Literature))

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9781841624419: Madagascar: The Eighth Continent: Life, Death and Discovery in a Lost World (Bradt Travel Guides (Travel Literature))
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Lying some 250 miles off the east coast of Africa, Madagascar is the world's fourth-largest island. It is quite unlike the neighbouring continent, and, for that matter, quite unlike any other landmass on the planet. Its plant life is almost wholly endemic: eight out of ten plants there grow naturally only on Madagascar, and it has an entire ecosystem, the spiny desert, that is found nowhere else on earth. Many of its animal species, too, seem to have emerged from some evolutionary track that runs parallel to the rest of the world's; here can be found lemurs that will fit into a human palm, dwarf hippos, giant chameleons, and other rarities.

These plants and animals constitute an extraordinary diversity, writes science journalist Peter Tyson in this engaging book, and the island's richness of life has long intrigued scientists, who have proposed several theories to explain it. Those scientists, some of whom Tyson profiles at work in the field, are racing against time to catalogue island life before it disappears, for Madagascar's human population is rapidly growing, and with it the island's forests and other habitats are falling. The urgency may abate, Tyson writes with guarded optimism, now that the island's current president has proposed that all of Madagascar be considered as a United Nations World Heritage Site, which would help provide funds to prevent further loss of habitat and diversity. Though this proposal is not without its controversial aspect, Tyson makes a good case for why it should be taken up--and he shows just how high the stakes are.

Throughout his narrative, Tyson mixes scientific reportage with a nicely rendered travelogue that guides readers across the island while outlining key concepts of island biography and conservation biology. His book makes for a worthy companion to David Quammen's Song of the Dodo, and valuable reading for anyone concerned with the world environment. --Gregory McNamee

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'Whether meeting a leaf-tailed gecko eye to eye... or describing conservation issues and local customs, Peter Tyson provides the most enjoyable book on the natural and cultural history of Madagascar I have ever read.' George B. Schaller, Wildlife Conservation Society 'A sharp picture of an intriguing place.' Scientific American 'Part field report, part travelogue, part ecological history, Tyson's book is an engrossing testament to one of the planet's most astonishing places.' Discover 'This is an absolutely absorbing book. Peter Tyson takes us with him on a journey of discovery, describing Madagascar with a rare depth of understanding, a fine eye for detail, and a sense of wonder that is most refreshing. There is humour, sadness, puzzlement, hope for the future. When you put the book down, you truly feel as if you have been there.' --Jane Goodall

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9780380975778: The Eighth Continent: On the Trail of the Extraordinary in Madagascar

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ISBN 10: 0380975777 ISBN 13: 9780380975778
Publisher: William Morrow & Company, 2000
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